Brooks Koepka wins the 117th U.S. Open, played June 15-18 at Erin Hills. Photo: sportsbuzzbusiness
Golf isn’t going to make it with this bunch of no-namers.
Don’t get me wrong. I know who Brooks Koepka is. I know of Brian Harman and Patrick Reed. The casual golf fan doesn’t. They know Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Ask they about Tommy Fleetwood and you’ll be met with an immediate, “Who?”.
That’s why, I say, golf needs a shot of adrenaline to keep up with our tiny 140-character attention spans, these days. No disrespect to guys like Charlie Hoffman. It’s just that, most sports fans couldn’t pick you out of a 3-man lineup.
Even Hideki Matsuyama, the soon-to-be No. 2 ranked player in the world, is largely anonymous unless you carry multiple Pro-V1s in your lunchbox, you know… just in case.
So, on Sunday at the U.S. Open, the most memorable thing about the nation's top annual tournament was announcer Joe Buck butchering the name of the champion’s girlfriend (which I say, is no big deal). Oh, Twitter reacted to that. They just didn’t WATCH the tournament.
Brooks Koepka tied Rory McIlroy's (who missed the cut) record for the lowest score by a U.S. Open champion and become the seventh straight first-time major winner.
That is NOT good for golf.
The ratings bear it out. The final round, (granted it was Father’s Day and people may have been out doing other things besides watching golf on TV) only got a 3.6 rating nationwide. That’s the second-smallest ever. At least it beat this.
You know why the ratings were so low? The top-3 ranked players in the world missed the cut, and none were ever really that close to the weekend. Nope, No Dustin Johnson, McIlroy or Jason Day. Jordan Spieth, America’s golfing heartthrob from two years ago, has faded away when it counts lately. He started the year red hot. The last three months he’s averaging 71ish on the scorecard. He was tied for 11th at the Masters. He missed the cut at The Players and was done golfing at this weekend's U.S. Open before most of us finished our Father’s Day hot dog lunches. I'm sure Under Armour loved that.
Die-hards, like me, watched every swing. Casual fans, like most everyone else, were turned off by many different factors. The main one? No brand names on TV to keep you interested.
As popular as Rickie Fowler is, even he wasn’t enough to keep people watching. When the "best to never win a major" star began to fade off the pace, FOX, naturally, decided not to show as many of his shots. Why? He had no chance to win. The problem with that? It didn't give many people reason to watch.
That left viewers with the combination of names like Harman, Koepka and Fleetwood to keep their interests peaked.
Hence the tiny TV numbers.
I was cruising around town today and flipped on the local sports talk show. I don’t listen to it much these days but stayed with it for a few minutes upon hearing them discuss the U.S. Open. Here’s how the :90 of coverage sounded:
“Harman? That’s not going to do it for me.”
“Between idiots yelling at the TV and a bunch of names I didn’t know, I couldn’t watch for more than three or four minutes at a time. Sorry I just couldn’t!”
“Fleetwood? Who are these guys? That’s why golf’s in trouble, man.”
Can you blame them?
The most damning line of the back and forth between the two radio hosts was when one guy mispronounced Koepka’s last name. If you don’t know how to SAY a major champion’s name, clearly you didn't give a rip about the event.
It’s not like this string of 7-straight newbie winners in majors are stiffs. Each of them was ranked as a Top-50 player in the world when they hoisted the trophy.
But, they were, mostly, no-namers. If you’re trying to compete for the attention of an already crowded sports viewing landscape littered with shorter attention spans than ever, you’d better gives those fleeting few something better than Xander Schauffele.
Step your game up, stars.
By the way, I think Paul Azinger did a nice job as color analyst. Well done, Zinger.